Gender quotas & positive action - an attack on meritocracy?

Tackling gender imbalances in research is vital for inclusivity and women's career progression. In this Open Forum, we will share and discuss the contents of our second policy brief – exploring the contentious topic of positive action, assessing arguments for and against, drawing insights from MINDtheGEPs' Gender Equality Plan development.

Gender quotas & positive action - an attack on meritocracy?

When: 20 March 2024, 14:00-15:30

Where: Online

Speaker: Cristina Solera, MINDtheGEPs coordinator & Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Turin

Despite EU efforts, gender disparities persist in research institutions. Positive action is proposed to address the imbalance, but concerns about protecting the meritocracy are an obstacle to acceptance. However, evidence is challenging the notion that merit is impartial, revealing biases favouring men. With this policy brief and Open Forum, we target diverse stakeholders, emphasizing the need for consensus-building to efficiently introduce economic incentives for reducing gender gaps. Decision-makers must engage in dialogue, negotiation, and discussions to navigate the complexities surrounding gender quotas and positive action. During this Open Forum, we will provide insights and recommendations drawn from some innovative actions implemented within MINDtheGEPs' Gender Equality Plans, including how to tackle resistances and risks.

About the speaker

Cristina Solera is the coordinator of MINDtheGEPs. She is Associate Professor of Sociology at the Department of Cultures, Politics and Society at the University of Turin and an affiliate at Collegio Carlo Alberto. Her research interests include women's labour-market participation, work-family reconciliation, new models of motherhood and fatherhood, comparative social policies, gender, and class inequalities.

About MINDtheGEPs: More & more women are choosing research careers, but women are still underrepresented: as authors, as leaders, and in top positions. MINDtheGEPs will change this pattern, with 10 partners spending 4 years using gender data to identify the extent and causes of inequalities. We will change structures and cultures in 7 universities and research centres across Europe. With the goal to fix the system, not the women!

About the policy brief

Taking steps to address gender imbalances is essential to ensure women's career progress and promote diverse and inclusive research environments. Positive action (sometimes referred to as positive discrimination or affirmative action) is widely acknowledged as a crucial tool for achieving this goal. However, resistance persists, and opinions diverge about which are the most effective and valid strategies. This policy brief provides an overview of the multifaceted debate around positive action, the arguments for, arguments against, and pathways for implementation. The policy brief draws insight from the Gender Equality Plan development process of and interviews performed by MINDtheGEPs. It ends by presenting two case studies from Italian universities.

Cipriani, Nastassja., Solera, Cristina., & Holm Bodin, Anna. (2023). Gender quotas & positive action: An attack on meritocracy?. Zenodo. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.10024373


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MINDtheGEPs (Modifying Institutions by Developing Gender Equality Plans) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no 101006543.

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